by Heather Robinson / @Heather_Rose_
One year ago, the Brandon Jennings vs Josh Selby matchups were the talk of Baltimore, MD. Fueled by a fierce desire to win, Jennings and Selby were wholeheartedly committed to embarrassing each other on the court.
There was the constant trash talking, end-to-end tenacious defense and flashy ankle-breaking crossovers with the pull-up three pointers that came with an accompanying “oh” or “ah” from the overcrowded gyms. The performances left Baltimore locals wanting rematch after rematch. Thus, it was fitting that the two be paired against each other for a third time, with Team Under Armour looking to beat Team Baltimore’s Best in the city where the rivalry was born: Baltimore.
August 14, 2012, the stage is set. It’s 7 p.m. and St. Francis (MD) Academy is already filled to capacity with gym security blocking the entrance, refusing to allow patrons into the building. Team Under Armour walks into the gym from a side entrance, hoods over their heads, earphones blasting in their ears, stopping to speak to no one before entering the opposing locker room. Meanwhile, Team Baltimore’s Best, trickles in at their own pace, often shaking hands or giving hugs to friends and family before finally making their way to the home locker room.
Thirty minutes later, the teams take the court, saying their quick hellos to one another before returning to their respective warm-up lines. There’s a buzz in the crowd and yet no one seems interested in watching practice dunks. Everyone’s waiting for the real competition. Even the children seem almost bored with the uncontested dunking as they stand in line for the dollar cupcakes, in the corner of the gym.
Finally, the time has come, 8 p.m., and the teams’ starting fives take the court with Memphis Grizzlies guard and NBA Summer League co-MVP Josh Selby, nowhere to be found. Did he skip out on the game? Is it possible he was scared to face “Young Money” again after getting the best of him last summer? Those thoughts of course, didn’t last long following the tip-off.
Team Under Armour was a step slow from the very start, struggling to put the ball in the hoop, often settling for deep three-point shots and overdoing themselves on the extravagant dunk attempts. Team Baltimore’s Best raced out to an early 30-19 point lead, pushing the tempo and crashing the offensive boards. The man leading the Baltimore underdogs? None other than Baltimore bred, Will Barton of the Portland Trail Blazers. He was everywhere; crashing the boards for thunderous putbacks, lacing his defender’s kicks before pulling up for deep triples from right, left, along the baseline, near half court. The man was simply hot and every time he moved, he moved with the kind of swiftness even Muhammed Ali would have to admire.
By the time Selby entered the gym—although welcomed by a hysteric glee from the crowd—Barton was already set to steal the show. Sure, Team Under Armour eventually started connecting on those high-flying dunk attempts and even hit a couple shots from downtown, but it was Barton who consistently had the answer, scoring at will over Derrick Williams then Brandon Jennings and then Kemba Walker. There was very little, “Young Money” or anyone else for that matter could do to slow the guy down. Once Selby got into the flow of things and started raining down his own deep balls and sweet no-look dimes, it was all but over for the Under Armour hoops ambassadors.
When the buzzer sounded, Team Baltimore’s Best topped Team Under Armour with a 124-109 win. MVP honors went to Barton, who finished with 72 points in a 40-minute running clock game. He was the King of Baltimore on this night and also the King of Under Armour basketball, as he recently signed to the Baltimore-based company. While some will refute the statistics, there’s no denying, Barton definitely protected his house.